Speculation on Jim Popp’s future with the Montreal Alouettes has been put to rest, at least for now.
The only general manager the CFL club has had since it returned to Montreal after a 10-year hiatus in 1996 signed a three-year contract extension on Thursday that runs through the 2017 season.
There was concern that the 49-year-old, who was in the final year of his contract, was ready to move on. But the Elkin, N.C. native said: “I plan to be here and fulfil my contract.”
He did not say if his deal includes an out-clause if he is offered an NFL job. He drew interest ahead of last season from the Indianapolis Colts and rumours of a move south have arisen periodically throughout his tenure with the Alouettes.
It’s assumed Popp would jump at the chance, but he said he’d be just as happy to stay in Montreal until he retires.
“I can’t foresee the future,” said the married father of six children, all born in Montreal. “I have to work.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever retire, with six kids. But I love the job, the city and the team, so if it happens that way, you’ll find a very happy person. I don’t dwell on whether (an NFL job) will ever happen. I know I’m very fortunate to have a job. There’s really only two pro football leagues and there are 41 jobs. I have one of those.”
Popp was GM of the defunct Baltimore Stallions for two years, winning a Grey Cup in 1995, before the team moved to Montreal. He is 233-129-1 as a CFL general manager, adding Cups with the Alouettes in 2002, 2009 and 2010.
In Montreal, his teams have never missed the playoffs and never won fewer than eight games in a season.
But it looked like his stay was coming to an end last winter when owner Robert Wetenhall did not let him keep the head coaching job, left him out of the decision to hire Tom Higgins as coach and did not immediately extend his contract as GM.
Popp took over as head coach for the third time in his career when Dan Hawkins was fired only five games into the 2013 season. He is 14-18 in the regular season as a coach.
If there was any bitterness about not being allowed to coach, Popp said he is over it.
“I have no hard feelings about anything,” said Popp, who is also vice-president and director of football operations. “It’s business. It’s (Wetenhall’s) team.
“He makes the decisions. It was a real roller-coaster in the off-season, especially for me personally with different things that went on, but I knew the entire time that I might not be the head coach. I also want to make it very clear that my relationship with Tom Higgins is very good.”
Team president Mark Weightman said Wetenhall did not attend the news conference because he was ill. Weightman hopes the move will end talk of a rift among management.
“For us, there wasn’t a lot of doubt that it would play out this way,” he said. “I understand how perception wasn’t always that clear, so to have this done early, if it silences the critics or closes the door on that conversation, great.
“We can focus on the season and winning some games. Having Jim secured for many more years is a big part of ensuring the stability of our club.”
Popp said that talks on his contract extension lasted only a week.
“There was never any doubt or worries from my end that those discussions would take place,” he said.